Ex fighting for custody

Ex husband is fighting for custody and I was served papers to appear. I filed for a 30 day continuace hoping to save money for a lawyer. I really don’t feel he has a case to get our kids but I need to be prepared. He has the cash to fight, but I do not. Its getting to the end of the 30 days but I still don’t have the funds. $1500. retainer is too much right now. I have to give an answer in writing as to his request. How much time will I have after I respond to when we should appear in court for trial. Is it possible to give an answer without a lawyer and maybe I can get the money to have the lawyer with me at trial.
The kids have been in my care for a year and a half now. They go to school in my town as well as doing activities here. My ex has them every other weekend as per our separation agreement. I offered him every other week during the summer so he could have more time and he turned it down saying he didn’t want to put them in daycare every other week. I just have this feeling that he has something up his sleeve having a lawyer and plenty of funds. What can I do to keep from getting screwed and how can I delay long enough to retain a lawyer myself. I feel he is hoping I won’t have a lawyer.

Depending on your county it could be several months before you have to appear in court. If your ex made a claim for a temporary hearing, it could be a few weeks before you have a short hearing on temporary custody.
You may file an answer without a lawyer, you need to respond to each and every allegation in the Complaint by admitting or denying the same, and include a counterclaim for custody as well.